After each session of the Texas Legislature, the Republican establishment in Austin praises themselves on “remarkable” Pro-Life “victories.” Despite the establishment’s narrative, Texas PLUMMETED in Pro-Life state rankings after the Regular Session of the 86th Texas Legislature in 2019.
Texas is not in fact the most Pro-Life state, nor is Texas even in the top five or ten; rather, Texas is now the 17th most Pro-Life state, dropping four spots in just a year, according to Americans United for Life’s (AUL) annual Life List. This abysmal ranking is a result of gradual apathy over the past decade as “Pro-Life” politicians have chosen to thwart life-saving bills, settling instead for easy ceremonial victories.
Each year, AUL reviews the Pro-Life and anti-Life laws of each state, including any new policies from the previous year. Based upon how well these laws protect vulnerable human life, AUL ranks all 50 states from most to least Pro-Life.
Texas wasn’t always ranked as lamentably low as 17th. In 2008, AUL considered Texas the 4th most Pro-Life state in the nation. But by 2015, Texas dropped to 10th and continued to fall, ranking 13th in 2019. This nosedive in the rankings occurred during the Republican House leadership tenures of Joe Straus and Dennis Bonnen. Under their reigns, the Pro-Life issue was considered of lesser importance or too controversial, leading to willful dismissal of Pro-Life legislation and missed opportunities to save innocent human lives.
Falling four spots during a year in which the Texas Legislature was in session underscores House leadership’s failure. Some have excused Texas’s poor score to our biennial legislature that causes our score to fall after years during which the Texas Legislature did not meet. Astonishingly, Texas fell four spots during the 86th Legislature, which politicians and groups with Pro-Life sounding names have praised.
This session, the Texas Legislature refused to pass a single bill that prevents elective abortion or saves the lives of vulnerable patients. The Preborn NonDiscrimination Act (PreNDA) was the top abortion-related priority bill. PreNDA would have eliminated the remaining late-term abortions in Texas; prevented the selective targeting of preborn children because of their sex, race, or disability; and, promoted a network of Pro-Life alternatives to abortion for preborn children with severe disabilities. House leadership killed the bill at the last moment. Likewise, another Pro-Life priority would have ensured health care practitioners would not have to provide or assist in services to which they conscientiously object, such as abortion, sterilization, and euthanasia. This bill never received a hearing. Both of these failures had a severe negative impact on Texas’s ranking.
Another policy area that AUL sees as central to the Pro-Life movement is protecting vulnerable patients. AUL recommends a law called the “Charlie Gard Act.” Their recommendation is the complete opposite of Texas’s unprecedented, unethical, and unconstitutional 10-Day Rule that allows hospitals to target vulnerable patients like Tinslee Lewis and remove their basic life-sustaining treatment. House leadership killed a Pro-Life bill (similar to the Charlie Gard Act) at the end of the session.
Many legislators make excuses, saying our elected officials cannot boldly defend human Life because Texas might turn blue. But pro-abortion states like New York never think that, and even our fellow southern states that are less red still seize opportunities to protect preborn children and vulnerable patients. Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan are all statistically less Republican than Texas, yet each achieved a higher Pro-Life ranking. What good is a Republican majority without victories that save innocent lives?
One aspect of the Texas Legislature has remained common throughout the last decade: a House speaker who actively thwarts the Pro-Life agenda. The consequences of these failures are much more severe than an embarrassing ranking on a national list. When the Texas Legislature fails to pass Pro-Life priorities, tens of thousands more vulnerable humans are subjected to abortion and euthanasia. The good news is that Dennis Bonnen will not serve as speaker when the Texas Legislature convenes in 2021 or if Lieutenant Governor Patrick supports a special session to protect Life and Governor Greg Abbott officially makes the call. Texas legislators must take action to stand for Life and fulfill their promises to you, the voters. For this to occur, House members must select a speaker who will drive the Pro-Life agenda. If not, expect Texas to continue to fall through the ranks and more innocent human lives to be lost.